A proper amount of restorative sleep is beneficial to our health and day to day life. With that in mind, practicing healthy sleep hygiene and creating a helpful routine will lead to restful sleep and waking up rested and refreshed.
However, some occurrences in sleep can disrupt our sleep cycle and one of them is hypnic jerks. While hypnic jerks normally occur once in a while, having them occur frequently can hint at some conditions that shouldn’t be ignored.
In this article, we pointed out the most accurate definition of hypnic jerks and how to treat them properly. Additionally, you may also be able to decode the reason behind which you wake up with a jolt caused by a hypnic jerk.
It’s important to note that a lot more people experience hypnic jerks. Italian researchers found that between 60% and 70% of people wake up with a jolt at some point in their life.
What are Hypnic Jerks?
Hypnic jerks occur when a muscle starts twitching on its own just as you’re about to sail into the dreamland. Other names include sleep and night starts, myoclonic jerks, and hypnagogic jerks, as a formal name. It happens occasionally, but it can also be classified as a sleeping disorder. The muscle twitching or contraction happens extremely swiftly and lasts brief, but it’s strong enough to make you wake up from sleep.
What are the Symptoms?
Hypnic jerks sometimes result in waking up startled, to the point one doesn’t have time to think about what woke them up. The only thing some people may remember is a jolting sensation in the limps. Some people who experience waking up with a jolt caused by a hypnic jerk may also feel the following symptoms:
- Falling sensation
- Tingling or painful sensation
- Explosion-like noise
- Flashing lights or hallucinations
The consequences of hypnic jerks may even be felt physically. As the sensation may feel scary, we may wake up with our heart beating faster, rapid breathing, and even sweating, as a coping mechanism of our body to react to fear.
What Causes Hypnic Jerks?
The same Italy-based study says that hypnic jerks are more common in children than adults. However, both experience them throughout life regardless of age or gender.
Some doctors and sleep experts may, however, confuse the hypnogogic jerk with epilepsy-like seizures. Researchers are still working on finding the real causes behind the hypnic jerks, but here are some of the most common ones.
Poor Sleep Hygiene
As a result of their busy life and obligations, adults rarely practice healthy sleep hygiene.
A lot of studies say that the best time to sleep is between 10 pm and 6 am and anything more intense than that can lead to chronic sleep loss. Interestingly hypnic jerks can also be a result of chronic sleep loss and interrupted sleep cycle.
No doubt exercising through the day can be healthy for us. However, there are as much evidences that show that exercising before bed can lead to higher metabolic activity that can keep us up at night. Exercising can stimulate certain glands in the brain, leading to muscle twitching when we’re supposed to be sleeping.
Stimulants like caffeine-rich drinks (soda, coffee, teas) can lead to higher brain activity which can lead to muscle twitching through the night. As a result, not only you may wake up with a twitching muscle, you may also encounter difficulties falling back asleep.
As you may already know, a stressful lifestyle can entirely disrupt the sleep cycle. As a result of stress, we may also often feel anxious and even depressed to the point our sleep cycle is interrupted. Such interruption can lead to brain activity which may cause you to feel muscle twitching and wake up with a jolt. Worrying about everyday’s stressful situation stimulates the brain, which may also result in unnerving jolting.
A team of researchers from the University of Alabama reviewed the literature related to hypnogogic jerks which suggests that the condition may be associated with another underlying condition, most often related to some sort of seizures like:
- Nocturnal seizures
- Non-epileptic seizures
- Restless legs syndrome.
Other conditions may also include hyperekplexia, parasomnias, periodic limb movements in sleep, and others.
Researchers also found that the hypnic jerks can be a consequence of parkinsonism, while the team from Alabama said this could be the key clue in diagnosing people with Parkinson’s disease in its early stage.
If that happens quite frequently, you shouldn’t waste time but go to a doctor immediately to see what can you do about it.
How to Stop Hypnic Jerks?
Now that we’ve distinguished between the relation of hypnic jerks with other conditions and unveiled its causes, it’s time to see how to minimize and potentially eliminate the frequent occurrence.
1. Change Stimulants Intake
Since stimulants are the main cause of hypnic jerks, it’s important to reduce their intake and see the results. Do you drink more than three coffees a day? Do you drink too many carbonated drinks? Do you take some drugs or mental health stimulants? Determine the right amount and reduce the intake of those substances to change the likelihood of a hypnic jerk occurring.
Stimulants increase brain activity and cause your brain to startle itself from time to time, causing you to wake up without adequate sleep. It’s important to avoid taking too much nicotine, because it may lead to a lack of oxygen in your brain, which disrupts your regular sleep cycle. Finally, avoiding alcoholic beverages will also have a positive outcome on the likelihood of sleep starts happening after a week or two of reducing or minimizing the intake.
2. Exercise Earlier
Workouts and exercising are good for our body, our blood pressure, circulation, weight loss, thyroid, and more. However, a lot of experts advise that exercising less than two hours before sleep may result in experiencing a lot of sleep disruptions. Exercising before bed increases our metabolic performance, which also leads to higher brain activity. As a result of that, our brain may produce the scenarios in which we’d end up waking up with a jolt.
Just like with all sleep disorders, it’s advisable to exercise earlier through the day. If you’re not able to move your workout routine through the day, try performing light exercises that won’t act as a stimulant on your body and brain.
3. Don’t Eat Too Much Before Bed
After eating, our brain must process the information that we’re full and send signals to digest and process the food we ate. This results in the release of certain hormones, both in our digestive system and brain, which pumps up brain activity. This can lead to a plethora of issues while sleeping, which is why it’s important to either eat lighter meals before bed or avoid eating at least a few hours before bed.
If you’re troubled by not knowing what to eat, avoid eating complex proteins like beef or pork, carbs, fast food, or snacks high in saturated fats and processed sugars. Eat lean protein like chicken, turkey, or fish, enjoy green vegetable salads or light fruits.
4. Disconnect Yourself
Our busy lifestyles often see us spending more time on the phone or computer than in our solitude. Enjoy yourself, turn off your phone, TV, or laptop before laying to bed. Take a soothing bath, read a book, or plan out your next day.
You should also reorganize your sleep routine so that you can go to sleep at times that won’t be too exhausting for you once you wake up, and much more. Electronics like phones, laptops, and television emit the high-frequency blue light which increases brain activity and leads to hypnic jerks. Reduce the light and put the phone in another room to avoid them.
5. Reduce the Noise
Do you feel like your hypnic jerks are also followed by a breaking or explosion-like sound? If that’s the case, your room or partner are likely too loud, causing you the sleep starts that feel more than unnerving and uncomfortable. There are several ways to reduce that, but if the earplugs are not an option, maybe investing in a sleep machine isn’t that bad of ideas.
6. Reduce Stress
As mentioned above, stress can be one of the prime culprits behind invasive hypnic jerks. Understandably, living with stress isn’t easy and in some situations, it’s impossible to get rid of it.
However, engaging in activities with friends, or even in solitude can make you forget about your day to day worries which may influence the sleep that starts to happen.
7. Check Your Medicines
Certain medicines can cause the hypnic jerks symptoms to maximize. Some of those medicines may include serotonin-stimulating medicines.
One study found that one female suffered from hypnic jerks and waking up with jolts as a result of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor drug called escitalopram.
She also responded to treatment using the medicine clonazepam.
8. Use the Appropriate Bedding
It’s important to use appropriate beddings and mattresses to achieve sound and restful sleep. Sometimes that may not be easy, but if you’re sleeping on a mattress that wore out, is too firm, or too hot, there are a plethora of solutions to this problem.
Some of those solutions we listed in various articles, including mattress, mattress topper, and bedding reviews.
9. Check Your Magnesium Intake
Magnesium deficiency can be associated with photosensitive headaches, fibromyalgia, audiogenic stress, cold stress, and physical stress, according to a study.
Additionally, it’s often taken as a treatment for the restless leg syndrome (RLS.) Pumping up your magnesium intake through mineral water, foods, and supplements like tablets dissolvable in water can have soothing properties on your muscles and central nervous system, ultimately leading to reducing of hypnic jerks.
10. Take a Break
While for some people, sleep starts happen occasionally, some people have hypnic jerks episodes through one night. Some people may experience as many as two or three jerks before finally falling asleep.
If you’re bothered by this, and the heart rate jumped to the point it’s impossible to fall asleep, try getting up and walking around the house from 10 to 20 minutes.
The brain should become occupied by other activities and get rid of this strange loop.
When is the Time to See a Doctor?
Sleep jerks happen from time to time for everyone. Some people may experience it as little as one time, and not remember the other times. For some other people, they occur more often.
On most occasions, they’re nothing to worry about, and the best thing to do is go back to sleep once you calm down. They’re part of the sleep cycle, despite having the potential to disturb and disrupt it.
However, if sleep jerks occur frequently, more times in a week and several times through the night, it’s time to look deeper into the causes and visit a doctor.
Your general practitioner doctor will either appoint you to a therapist or suggest a certain therapy to go for.
Sleep jerks nor jolts upon waking up as a result of limb and muscle contractions can’t be cured permanently. After all, it’s not a disease but rather a condition which either happens unintentionally or as a result of the causes we listed before.
Doctors often prescribe clonazepam, which in some occasions helps minimize the symptoms. While researchers actively work on learning more, there’s no much knowledge, research, or experience with stopping the jolts permanently.
With that in mind, a lot of people get creative and choose what may work best for them. Some alternative ways to stop hypnic jerks include:
- Reducing intake of allergy medicines
- Use a sleep tracker
- A warm shower before beds
Do hypnic jerks bother you? If there was a special approach you used to reduce them, please, let us know in the comments!
Thursday 13th of January 2022
Olanzapine - stay very far away from it. 3 tablets in 3 days is what started hypnic jerk. Should never be taken by healthy people (or anyone) Extremely bad medication - should be banned.
Some relief to get to sleep is magnesium, GABA (maybe 500mg) and maybe L-Theanine. (100mg)
If jerks very bad then using Inderal 10mg Bet-blocker helps but lowers pulse rate and maybe combined with above may lower pulse too much.
Sunday 8th of May 2022
Thank you. I started suffering from these a couple months ago.
Saturday 19th of September 2020
It’s useful article on hypnic jerk. Cool.